Far Infrared Radiation (FIR): Its Biological Effects and Medical Applications

Far infrared (FIR) radiation (λ = 3–100 μm) is a subdivision of the electromagnetic spectrum that has been investigated for biological effects. The goal of this review is to cover the use of a further sub-division (3– 12 μm) of this waveband, that has been observed in both in vitro and in vivo studies, to stimulate cells and tissue, and is considered a promising treatment modality for certain medical conditions. Technological advances have provided new techniques for delivering FIR radiation to the human body. Specialty lamps and saunas, delivering pure FIR radiation (eliminating completely the near and mid infrared bands), have became safe, effective, and widely used sources to generate therapeutic effects. Fibers impregnated with FIR emitting ceramic nanoparticles and woven into fabrics, are being used as garments and wraps to generate FIR radiation, and attain health benefits from its effects

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FIR Therapy for Chronic Health Problems

Physical therapy (physiotherapy), a complementary and alternative medicine therapy, has been widely applied in diagnosing and treating various diseases and defects. Increasing evidence suggests that convenient and non-invasive far-infrared (FIR) rays, a vital type of physiotherapy, improve the health of patients with cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and chronic kidney disease. Nevertheless, the molecular mechanisms by which FIR functions remain elusive. Hence, the purpose of this study was to review and summarize the results of previous investigations and to elaborate on the molecular mechanisms of FIR therapy in various types of disease. In conclusion, FIR therapy may be closely related to the increased expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase as well as nitric oxide production and may modulate the profiles of some circulating miRNAs; thus, it may be a beneficial complement to treatments for some chronic diseases that yields no adverse effects.

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FIR Increases Nitric-Oxide Production by Increasing Ca(2+) Mobilization

Repeated thermal therapy manifested by far-infrared (FIR) radiation improves vascular function in both patients and mouse model with coronary heart disease, but its underlying mechanism is not fully understood. Using FIR as a thermal therapy agent, we investigate the molecular mechanism of its effect on endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) activity and NO production. FIR increased the phosphorylation of eNOS at serine 1179 (eNOS-Ser(1179)) in a time-dependent manner (up to 40min of FIR radiation) in bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAEC) without alterations in eNOS expression. This increase was accompanied by increases in NO production and intracellular Ca(2+) levels. Treatment with KN-93, a selective inhibitor of Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) and H-89, a protein kinase A inhibitor, inhibited FIR radiation-stimulated eNOS-Ser(1179) phosphorylation. FIR radiation itself also increased the temperature of culture medium. As transient receptors potential vanilloid (TRPV) ion channels are known to be temperature-sensitive calcium channels, we explore whether TRPV channels mediate these observed effects. Reverse transcription-PCR assay revealed two TRPV isoforms in BAEC, TRPV2 and TRPV4.

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Reversing Glucose-Induced Endothelial Cell Dysfunction

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a metabolic disease that is increasing worldwide. Furthermore, it is associated with the deregulation of vascular-related functions, which can develop into major complications among DM patients. Endothelial colony forming cells (ECFCs) have the potential to bring about medical repairs because of their post-natal angiogenic activities; however, such activities are impaired by high glucose- (HG) and the DM-associated conditions. Far-infrared radiation (FIR) transfers energy as heat that is perceived by the thermoreceptors in human skin. Several studies have revealed that FIR improves vascular endothelial functioning and boost angiogenesis. FIR has been used as anti-inflammatory therapy and as a clinical treatment for peripheral circulation improvement. In addition to vascular repair, there is increasing evidence to show that FIR can be applied to a variety of diseases, including cardiovascular disorders, hypertension and arthritis. Yet mechanism of action of FIR and the biomarkers that indicate FIR effects remain unclear. MicroRNA-134 (miR-134-5p) was identified by small RNA sequencing as being increased in high glucose (HG) treated dfECFCs (HG-dfECFCs). Highly expressed miR-134 was also validated in dmECFCs by RT-qPCR and it is associated with impaired angiogenic activities of ECFCs. The functioning of ECFCs is improved by FIR treatment and this occurs via a reduction in the level of miR-134 and an increase in the NRIP1 transcript, a direct target of miR-134. Using a mouse ischemic hindlimb model, the recovery of impaired blood flow in the presence of HG-dfECFCs was improved by FIR pretreatment and this enhanced functionality was decreased when there was miR-134 overexpression in the FIR pretreated HG-dfECFCs.

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